Saturday, August 7, 2010

Everyone Is Fiddling this Time As the World Burns

"Republic decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms."

The question is of course rhetorical but is anyone else beside me noticing everything going to crap? Hey, I have no delusions about leading some half-assed crusade to save the United States and the world, I do this blogging gig strictly to have fun and blow off steam.

But dammit when the elected officials argue and play games while the house is burning down and the high paid media types spend more time worrying over Snooki being inconvenienced by a tanning salon tax, something has gone very wrong. I shouldn't be surprised though, our elected officials and media give us what we want and its been decades since a truly sentient American public existed. The American attention span averages between that of a 30-minute sitcom and a hour long drama, after that we loose interest and start whining.

With the majority of the Americans wrapped up in their own little worlds with no kids of theirs fighting and dying in some shithole, the credit cards still functioning, and countless hours of distracting bread and circuses broadcast over cable television few see the shit falling apart. Anyone who does notice how bad the situation has become is at best casually ignored or ridiculed. Leaving everything to just a question of when the decay will finally reach them.

What collapsing empires looks like

by Glenn Greenwald

As we enter our ninth year of the War in Afghanistan with an escalated force, and continue to occupy Iraq indefinitely, and feed an endlessly growing Surveillance State, reports are emerging of the Deficit Commission hard at work planning how to cut Social Security, Medicare, and now even to freeze military pay. But a new New York Times article today illustrates as vividly as anything else what a collapsing empire looks like, as it profiles just a few of the budget cuts which cities around the country are being forced to make. This is a sampling of what one finds:

Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further -- it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation.

Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.

Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.

There are some lovely photos accompanying the article, including one showing what a darkened street in Colorado looks like as a result of not being able to afford street lights. Read the article to revel in the details of this widespread misery. Meanwhile, the tiniest sliver of the wealthiest -- the ones who caused these problems in the first place -- continues to thrive. Let's recall what former IMF Chief Economist Simon Johnson said last year in The Atlantic about what happens in under-developed and developing countries when an elite-caused financial crises ensues:

Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among emerging-market governments. Quite the contrary: at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or -- here's a classic Kremlin bailout technique -- the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk -- at least until the riots grow too large.

The real question is whether the American public is too apathetic and trained into submission for that to ever happen.

UPDATE: It's probably also worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month -- with a subheadline warning: "Back to Stone Age" -- which describes how "paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue." Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional. And it was announced this week that "Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free."

Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights -- or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State -- that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability? Anyway, I just wanted to leave everyone with some light and cheerful thoughts as we head into the weekend.


Teeluck said...

Beach, WTF, I am speechless. I mean, we in the blogosphere know of these things happening but when it is put together in one place, in one article, it is then you see the bigger picture. Wow, what a bleak picture!

Rhiannon said...

The party of "no" but nothing else going on nor any plan...look like total fools..or at least they will soon...paying back Obama for winning the Presidency but having no other option or idea of how to handle anything I find people stupid to think of even get into the "party of no"...unless of course it has something to do with their big lobbyist..pushing them to the max to do all this "or else" talks and the part of "No" have won a prize of "nothing".

I do feel that the president and the democrats are at least making effort and doing what they can to make things better for us...but the party of "no" really needs a lot of News media people to wake up and just keep asking over and over "you can only say "no" to everything for so long, tell us what you've got and if not what makes you think your going to win a lot of elections? For what? Just to say "No"...

I do see what you are saying and see some people living in a land of "Oz" or something...actions speak louder than words..but then again speaking, asking good questions and taking a stand might help to.

If there are some of us out here in blog land constantly making our points and asking questions, than you know BB, that we can't be the only ones asking talking and bringing up all these things. I watched CNN for the first time in about a year (I have no cable just a few digital converter channels) and I must say it was pretty refreshing to see them asking some important questions to the Republicans...and they were being very assertive, professional and making some good points..I thought "wow, it's about time they started "getting it"...we'll see what happens as time goes on. None of us can predict anything..only time will tell.

Signed the "Eternal Optimist",


Rhiannon said...

P.S. If we stop all the spending on the Aftganistan and Iraq completely we would have tons of funds to take care of a lot of things you mentioned in your post..why don't people in the News media bring up this major problem?..of Bush starting wars and then proceeding through the year to destroy our country and in debt..Obama is trying to handle a situation that he was "handed"...hang in there..he he..sorry couldn't resist the "hang" cliche' deal in my writing.


Marja said...

Come over to NZ We are quite content here ....or does that mean apathetic...looked it up....noop still enough spirit here.
How are you doing beach See things are stil on the dark side. Hope the tide turns.

PENolan said...

I read something recently that suggested the deterioration is a result of the shift from being a country that Produces into a country that Consumes. Makes sense, and if you're a multinational corporation, who cares where things are produced or consumed? It becomes a problem, though, when nobody has any money to buy things anymore . . .

Did you see District 9? Nasty Multinationals there.

Liberality said...

It is the trends outlined here that have me really sorry that I had and raised children and that I have grandchildren. What kind of future do they have? We are reliving the decline of the Roman Empire all over again. A new dark age is coming and disease, war, strife and massive climate changes are coming. The massively wealthy think they can build themselves a little island to hide in and wait it out and then come back out on top once the shit has stopped hitting the fan so they don't care. I guess I should start playing the fucking lottery and hoping I and my family can join them one day.

Distributorcap said...

i talk with people at work (a major tv company) who are educated, upper class and wordly - and most of them could give a shit of what happens outside of their little world -

some couldnt even tell you who their senator or rep is - as long as their kids go to school, and they still pay bills - the rest doesnt matter - afghanistan is a blip on the radar

complacency - the byproduct of a society that wants to be entertained all the time instead of striving to improve.

and the elected officials so reflect that - they are entertainners

TomCat said...

It is certainly frustrating, Beach. I know I can't save the country, but I'll keep trying until they nail the lid on.

lime said...

those sorts of budget cuts are disturbing and display a shocking level of ignorance. closing the library system will perpetuate the ignorance and make it easier to lead the uniformed masses down the gravelled road to hell.

Tim said...

Things can change. I believe that.
Change starts at the top so they say.
That it does leaves me in doubt. I think change will have to come from within. Bullshit aside, we have to find the leaders that will make that difference. Look at the quality of those in Politics. Now that's some scary shit. Term limits and financial reform will do wonders. Instead of a Candidate seeking Office we should seek out the best Candidate. All is not lost unless we let it be that way.

Beach Bum said...

Teeluck: I have done several posts along these lines and each one appears to be getting bleaker. I would be wrong to try to blame anyone political party for the situation, something like this develops over many decades with responsible people drifting in and out.

Truthfully I lay most of the blame on the American people.

Rhia: Like I said above this situation has been going on for decades and cuts across both blue and red states. I have done several of these posts and the problem has more to do with ineptitude and corruption than any grand scheme to punish the president.

Marja: Actually I have been looking into expatriating but it appears that I am a little too old for both Australia and New Zealand. Its totally cool, I read the responses I got back and understand I would be far too close to retirement before I could contribute enough to the national system. Now there is an option if I get very, very lucky and win millions in the lottery. I can "buy" my way in and believe you me it would be one of the first things I do.

The west coast of Australia or the south island of New Zealand is paradise. Tasmania looks good as well.

PENolan: Absolutely, if nothing is manufactured the infrastructure can be left to rot. In fact during the "research" of these related posts the substandard infrastructure of this country could very well be pushing existing jobs out and preventing overseas businesses from bringing jobs in. The American Society of Civil Engineers did a report saying it would cost 2.2 trillion to bring our infrastructure back up to acceptable levels, damn sad we spent all that money in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beach Bum said...

Liberality: Yeah, I mentioned the same thing about playing the lottery in a earlier comment. But from the experience I have had talking with others along my same "middle class" level they are even building walls around themselves concerning these issues. They simply do not want to hear about this stuff, it doesn't fit in with their comfy lives and gets them worried about having to pay more taxes.

Don't misunderstand me, I have huge issues with politicians but this appears systemic to at least the majority of the country. My best example is a article I only heard mentioned on a an NPR radio show. Some British reporter wrote something fairly recently saying that the American "can do" spirit has disappeared. The two people on the radio show went on to say a little more and I searched for that article but could never find it. Never the less, it was chilling since it cut to the core of the people who I was always taught we were.

DCap: BINGO!!!!!! That is the point I am making. You know I have hoped and prayed that the Democratic nominee, Alvin Greene, to the US senate seat now held by that wacko Jim DeMint won by some hacking of the electronic voting machine. DeMint is a lowlife who I actually believe could try and pull something like that but in all honesty it appears that the Democratic voters just picked the first name on the ballot.

Tomcat: Please forgive my flippant words wrote in partial anger and more than a little alcohol on the brain. As far as crusades are concerned I was speaking strictly about myself. I have played the well-meaning type before but somehow I always end up like the big guy Hurley on the television show "Lost", I have the right answer but no one listens.

Lime: Its very bad and the part about some place in Utah making the 12th grade "optional" was scary. But in an insane way it actually figures, I have been very hesitant to call out a political party over this since it has been going on for decades and is only now reaching a critical mass but Utah is different. Utah, being very conservative, is just applying its political beliefs but like old saying when you sow the wind you will reap the whirlwind.

Tim: I completely agree with term limits and financial reform but my fear is that it may be too late since corporations are now "people"
entitled to free speech. I regularly watch the financial and business news channels and a patriotic business person is the ultimate in oxymorons. Its all about squeezing the last possible cent of profit and then taking off to the next place for cheap labor. At some point the United States will not even be a viable market for Chinese good, by that time I figure the Chinese middle class will be ripe for their hyper-consumerism age.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Yes, things can change. Only if we, as Beach suggests, get up off our asses and make the change.

If who we put in office didn't do the job... we kick them out and put someone new in. The only thing left beyond that is rebellion.... gee, underground?

Seriously, Glen G. is wonderful for stirring your pot and getting you going.
Great post Beach. You speak to the frustration we are drowning in. I am doing all I can to raise awareness to the Gulf situation... and yet it is only one element of our planetary crisis... or have you not heard that the south pole is becoming a slushy stand? And those poles just took a mega hit of solar flare pulses. Being disappointed in the President just doesn't cut it... I don't support him any longer. Simply can't.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

And yeah... blame us. We are responsible, each plays a part. If we begin to realize it... then things can change. Like Tee... I am Hopeful.

Beach Bum said...

Gwen: Since the 80's I have read and heard various people speak about how the American public has let their advantages slip away or decay. Each time these people would conclude with some near prophesy about how something will come and wake the nation up. We have seen 9/11, Katrina, and now the Gulf Oil Spill go by and the refrain-in general-is still "stay the course".

For a long time I had faith that the great awaking would come but now I just don't see it. Could it still come and energize us to honestly look and solve our problems? Hell yes, anything is possible but, in my opinion, not probable.

We must seriously consider the idea that our time as a global leader and even the continued existence of the United States is nearing an end.

I would love to be proved wrong.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

BB: at this point I don't think we have any right to call ourselves 'a global leader'.
I've already begun to think global and just act local. The best I can. And I understand your disappointment. I just will not give up Hope. Even as I see your logic and feel your frustration...
I would despair if I gave in to it. I haven't mastered how to keep on living as "me" without Hope. Ya know?

Teresa said...

I agree that it's an American people thing. What's the fix?

TRUTH 101 said...

AS yours, my tone has also become more dour with each post Beach Bum. The righties demand deficits no matter how big to pay for occupations that make no difference to anyone but defense contractors bottom lines. God forbid taxes or deficits are raised to pay for buses.

We know the prioroties of the right are corporate profits and demanding more from working Americans while cutting taxes of those who benefit from our society the most. They have discovered obstructionism as a weapon to use against us. Each day the deficit grows is another victory for them.

Goddamn right I'm bitter. I only hope my bitterness isn't becoming boring.

TomCat said...

Beach, I didn't take it as flippant at all. I saw four frustration and identified with it. Refusing to give in is how I survive. :-)

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Beach, ty for your comment to me here, I did read it on radio last night... hope you'll not sue. But it struck into the heart of the matter for discussion .... (outlaw metaphysica BTR) your poignancy was effective. :-)

Beach Bum said...

Gwen: No age lasts forever and I know this Corporate Age will pass as well. Things change no matter how much those in power try attempt to keep the status quo. The demographics of the country will in a few decades have whitey a minority and kids are generally far more liberal that the older generation.

My one concern is that while the Marching Morons are dinosaurs walking toward irrelevance they can do a lot damage in the mean time.

Teresa: Seriously, not much right now in my opinion, we will have to do as Gwen said above. Think globally, act locally and wait out the Becks, Limbaughs, and others as they die off.

Truth: You and me both brother! It is a laugh riot to hear them on one side of their mouths talk about Obama spending too much while whining about how theu friends getting a tax increase will smother the economy.

Gwen: COOL! I will have to make time on night an catch up on your shows. I'm sorry, I meant to listen far more often but shit keeps getting in the way.

Suzan said...

Obviously it's all CIA ops now from on high; no valid news being reported from the BP disaster or Iraq or Afghanistan or . . . .

And our guys make fun of voting for Kucinich.

As if no one actually did that, and they could get away with a free "gotcha" to their backers on the real Left.

Love you for keeping it real,


the high paid media types spend more time worrying over Snooki being inconvenienced by a tanning salon tax, something has gone very wrong.

P.S. Only had one child and she is grown. No grandchildren.

So that's one worry to not have to look forward to.

Rhiannon said...

I do sincerely believe that there are many people in this country that becaame terrified when we voted in a black man for president..but he is only half black and I could care less, but BB I do feel there is a lot of fear from people who are now showing their deep prejudices and I read the yahoo comments to news stories and the horrific comments many make about killing off the "black president" and saying the most god awful things about Obama out of their fear it makes me stunned and sick to my stomache to see and read the fear of "Black" running our I do feel this has changed this country and it has brought some people back to wanting to go back to the days of old..because we have a black man for president they not only hate but has made things change drastically and show that are country is much more prejudice than we in this era...

SO, yes I do feel this has made a huge difference in the 'hate mentality" of a black man as president...much as I would not like it to be true it is...and many of our "true colors" are now showing...and it's no rainbow.